U.S. Rep. Greg Gainforte is taking heat from across the political spectrum for supporting “bikes over wilderness” legislation. This latest zinger is from G. George Ostrom . . .
Worrisome news recently broke with the new U.S. House Rep. Greg Gianforte, from Montana, suggesting the Wilderness Bill be amended to allow bicycles and other questionable uses. He implied the original bill allowed such things. As this paper’s editor, Chris Peterson, pointed out in his fine column last week, Gianforte has a very bad idea and, from this columnist’s point of view, Gianforte is inaccurate in his statement, not to mention the very real dangers bike riders would create for themselves and other legitimate users.
Please let me remind readers that I interrupted my growing journalistic career, sold my home and moved my family from Washington D.C. to help write the Wilderness Bill in the 87th Congress. I came home in debt from what we accomplished, but felt proud and honored to have been a part of it.
A well-reasoned piece on the “bikes over wilderness” issue by Chris Peterson, editor of the Hungry Horse News . . .
On Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1928, Bob Marshall, a Forest Service employee and wilderness champion, started a walk at Echo Lake near Bigfork. By the end of the day, he arrived at the Elk Park Ranger Station up the South Fork of the Flathead. It was a 30 mile hike. He hiked 40 miles the next day to the Black Bear Ranger Station. The day after that, he did another hike, up and over Pagoda Pass, then off-trail through the woods to the top of the Chinese Wall and then back to Black Bear Ranger Station. That hike was 42 miles.
And so Bob walked.
Over the course of eight days, he went 288 miles, through what is now the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Mission Mountain Wilderness. He ended up at the Seeley Lake post office.
Here’s a good overview of the issues surrounding H.R. 1349, the recently introduced “Wheels Over Wilderness” bill. The NFPA even gets a mention . . .
Advocates of designated wilderness with a capital “W” worry that a new congressional proposal could allow another w-word access to federally protected lands — wheels.
Specifically, mountain bikes, which are currently prohibited in congressionally designated wilderness areas, but also other wheeled devices. As the measure to allow them moves forward, however, it has pitted some user groups against one another while drawing wide opposition from environmental organizations.
A bill introduced to Congress last week by California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock would amend the 1964 Wilderness Act to allow the use of certain wheeled devices, including mountain bikes, in Wilderness areas — a use that has historically been prohibited on the nation’s 110 million acres of federally protected land.
Debo Powers, who has been sending in lots of links lately, spotted this opinion piece regarding a poorly thought out bill that would allow mountain bikes in wilderness areas. Seriously? . . .
Congress is currently considering legislation that would undermine a bedrock law that protects America’s iconic landscapes, our traditional way of life, and the wild landscapes that we’ve safeguarded for generations. This shortsighted proposal should be defeated.
H.R. 1349, introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), would re-write the Wilderness Act of 1964 to permit mountain bikes in America’s wilderness, where they have been prohibited for more than a half-century.
The National Wilderness Preservation System, created by the 1964 law, ensures that some of our remaining wild country remains as it has been for hundreds of years. By law, wilderness areas do not allow road building and other forms of development, and prohibit motorized and mechanized vehicles, including mountain bikes.
Rebecca Powell of Columbia Falls has an excellent op-ed making the rounds regarding bicycling in wilderness areas. It has appeared in the Hungry Horse News and in the Flathead Beacon so far . . .
By now you have probably heard from both sides of the debate on allowing mountain bikes into federally designated Wilderness. They are too fast, they will scare my horse, bikers play loud rap music. On the other side, bikers argue that they are low impact, human powered and can bring much needed funding for trail maintenance in these areas. Both arguments have valid points. But let’s just push pause here and think about it.
In the 1800s as the industrial revolution was sweeping the nation it seemed as though no person or no area was safe from impact and modification of man. In seeking to “improve” the standard of living we went from producing things by hand, to everything produced by machine. Fast forward a few decades and enter the conservation movement and forward thinking of people like John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall to name a few. These visionaries could see the benefits of designating large swaths of lands, ecosystems where industry was not dominate and had very little influence. From here came the Wilderness act of 1964 that states, “In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions … it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.”
Bikes have been around much longer than the Wilderness Act, but in the 1950s and ‘60s, just as the Wilderness Act was taking hold, bicycles were being modified to operate better off road and on trails. Tires getting bigger, frames lighter and people were able to access areas on bike that were not possible just years before. Visit any bike shop in the world and you will see that bikes are still evolving. Lighter, faster, tougher than ever before. The bike industry does not have nor should they have a pause button on the technology. There is no doubt that bikes are fun. Really fun. It’s a great way to exercise, spend time outdoors and challenge yourself. I love riding my bike on roads and on mountain trails and I am grateful for the advancements that are made each year.
Today in America we have just about 110 million acres of federally designated wilderness. Traveling in these areas is like stepping back in time. Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced technology dependent society. Each year as we evolve, we become more dependent on technology and less connected to wild places. When we are more comfortable connected to urban and technological landscapes, we are less likely to let it go and seek refuge in the wilderness. Just ask a teenager to put down their phone for a few hours and you will see.
Wilderness is a place where the pause button of industry has been pushed and modern conveniences are not allowed. The tools and equipment used to travel and work in the wilderness have not changed in the last 50 years. Trail crews are still using crosscut saws operated by hand instead of the quickness and convenience of chainsaws. Horses and mules are used to transport heavy loads and posting an update to your Instagram, Twitter, etc. is nearly impossible. Let’s keep some areas in this world free of the burdens of technological evolution. Let’s protect the place where you can engulf all of your senses in in the natural world just as it was 100 years, 10 years even two years ago and will remain 100 years from now. Mountain bikes have their place on trails, but let’s keep them out of these special places. Please keep mechanised transportation out of your wilderness areas.
This is a response to the Mountain-Bicycles-in-Wilderness effort. First, a bit about me – I have four bikes; a Specialized Allez road bike, an old Specialized Stump Jumper mountain bike, a Surly Pugsley fat tire bike, and a Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike. I ride them all at various times. I live 30-plus miles from the nearest telephone pole. North of Polebridge, there is no electric grid. Part of each year, I spend several months living on top of a mountain as a forest fire lookout looking for fire. I write all of this to define what forms my thoughts.
I love to ride my fat tire bike back in the woods/mountains where I’m allowed, and where I’m not allowed – I respect the rules of Wilderness. I love knowing Wilderness is there and is a constant sanctuary left the way it was and I hope that it always stays as it is. The attitude of the Sustainable Trails Organization http://www.sustainabletrailscoalition.org and The International Mountain Bicycling Association https://www.imba.com/ remind me of a petulant child – one who is sitting in a supermarket cart full of nutritious food, who leans towards the candy display and screams “I want that.” A temper tantrum focusing not on what they have, only what they don’t have.
I say no bikes in existing Wilderness. There are so many more acres to ride bikes than designated wilderness – BLM Lands, national forest lands and state lands. Where I live, there is a coalition of folks who gathered together to find common ground on national forest land use. They are called the Whitefish Range Partnership and this partnership consists of a diverse group of snowmobilers, loggers, mountain bikers, wilderness advocates, backcountry horsemen, private landowners and other special interest groups. They have collaborated to come to a mutual multi-use land plan for the Whitefish Range that satisfies each of the groups. This agreement was reached by consensus … unanimous agreement. Then, it was submitted as a proposal to the Flathead National Forest in its planning process. No one got exactly what they wanted, but they came to an agreement that they could all live with and enjoy. I feel that future Wilderness designations will come about as a result of collaborative efforts and contain compromises to satisfy the various land use interests.
I’m hoping that the various mountain bike groups here in Montana realize what a precious place our Wilderness Areas are and that they work to lead the way for other mountain bicycle groups to leave them alone. And, that they also lead the way to create new trails through collaboration with other groups. But I don’t want existing wilderness rules to change.
Looks like the Sustainable Trails Coalition folks found someone to front a mountain bike bill for them . . .
Two Utah senators have introduced legislation that would allow federal officials, such as U.S. Forest Service supervisors, to decide whether mountain bikes could be used on sections of trail in designated wilderness areas.
U.S. Sens. Mike Lee, R-UT, and Orrin Hatch, R-UT, are proposing the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Act, a bill that would change the rule banning bikes in protected wilderness, such as the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
Mountain bikes should never be permitted in wilderness. Consider this potential scenario: A packstring is slowly making its way down through Gateway Gorge, coming off the bench from Sabido Cabin deep in the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The trail is steep, rocky and narrow and it’s a long way down to the creek bottom.
The wreck took place about half way through the gorge. Half the packstring went off the edge. Two mules went down in the bottom, floundering and flopping around with broken legs; packs and gear strewn all over; pack boxes smashed to bits. The packer luckily stayed on his mount and tried to keep the rest of the string together. It started almost instantly, with no time for the packer to even know what was happening as two mountain bikers came down from the top, hell-bent for leather, and came up from behind the packstring.
An interesting — and controversial — opinion piece in the New York Times discussing whether we really should leave wilderness alone . . .
You won’t hear it on your summer hike above the bird song and the soft applause of aspen leaves, but there’s a heresy echoing through America’s woods and wild places. It’s a debate about how we should think about, and treat, our wilderness in the 21st century, one with real implications for the nearly 110 million acres of wild lands that we’ve set aside across the United States.